08/24/2012 08:18 EDT | Updated 10/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Anti-Gang Youth Programs Didn't Work, Federal Review Claims


The federal government has determined that the money it spent on gang-prevention youth programs in Winnipeg were not effective, but those who work with youth say that's not true.

In 2007, Ottawa gave more than $2 million to five gang-prevention projects in the city, including Just TV, a project run by the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre, and the Spence Neighbourhood Association's West Central Youth Outreach.

"I found a sense of belonging with the people here," said Renae Monkman, who wrote a film as part of the Just TV program.

But an evaluation of the funding, released in June, concluded that while the projects resulted in more cases of good behaviour — such as youth volunteering and belonging to team sports — they did not reduce young people's involvement in gangs.

But Jesse Gair, youth programs manager with the Spence Neighbourhood Association, said the federal evaluation did not capture all of the projects' successes.

"Little steps within these kids' lives is how we rated success," he said.

"When the kids come to us in crisis and they call us at three o'clock in the morning and we're their only support, or they tell us that we're their only support, then we know that that's a success," he added.

Gair worked with more than 50 at-risk youth as part of the outreach program, and he said none of them returned to custody at the Manitoba Youth Centre over the last three years.

"It's very difficult to read because of the amount of work that we put into it and knowing the reality on the street about how much these kids have changed," he said.

The federal funding for all five projects ended in March.